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The French daily Le Monde publishes a report on Jan. 25 by one of its correspondents in Mali, Jean-Phillipe Rémy. He managed to enter the town of Sévaré, one of the first to be taken by French forces and their Mali army subordinates. It is located in the region of the city of Mopti, near the frontier separating southern Mali from the beginning of the vast expanse of northern Mali.
Rémy reports that soldiers of the Mali army, following in the wake of the French air strikes and ground force invasion six days earlier, seized people in the town and executed them summarily. Their bodies were thrown into numerous pits, pictured in accompanying photos. He writes that when a photographer of the newspaper later questioned an officer of the Mali army about the photos of body parts he had taken, the officer declared, "So what do you think we did with people we grabbed? We snuffed them out."
Another report on summary executions is published in Le Monde online on Jan. 25.
A state of emergency prevails in Mali, declared by the governing regime. It suspends all civil rights.
French invaders readying for a long war
Le Monde also reports on the continued transport of massive quantities of weaponry to Mali by France. The number of French soldiers is quickly expected to exceed 3,000, according to the newspaper.
In an interview online published yesterday in Le Monde, French General Vincent Desportes says he does not expect African forces (expected to eventually number 4,000) will be ready for fighting until September 2013. He says the seizure of the entire north of Mali will probably not begin in earnest until the autumn and that if there is serious fighting, it will take many more troops than the 4,000 African soldiers and 3,000 French soldiers presently said to be in the country or on their way.
He also says that a full military occupation of the north would require many more soldiers than those numbers. He says that France does not have a lot of recent experience in fighting a desert war and will need time and resources to be in full operational mode.
The interview is headlined with a quotation of General Desportes: "For now (sic), we are a ways away from a quagmire."
One of the myths peddled by the invasion force and their hangers-on is that the imperialist armies will be replaced in short order by armies from neighbouring African countries. They even have a name for this force-to-be -- 'MISMA,' International Mission of Support to Mali (yes, shades of the 'MINUSTAH' acronym from Haiti, though in the case of 'MISMA' there is no rubber stamp by the UN Security Council accompanying it and therefore no 'UN' ('NU') in the name).
L’Humanité, the daily newspaper of the French Communist Party which has backed the invasion in the name of a necessary war against “jihadists” reports in a complaining tone on Jan. 23 that measures to bring soldiers from the armies of the neighbouring neo-colonial regimes are not being taken quickly enough by France.
Three leaders and former presidential candidates of the left-wing NPA party (New Anti-Capitalist Party) issued a statement on Jan. 18 condemning the war in Mali. They are Olivier Besancenot, Christine Poupin, Philippe Poutou. You can read the statement here on the informative, bilingual website 'Europe solidaire sans frontières' (A Europe of Solidarity Without Borders). Protests against the war are taking place in France, including one to take place tomorrow, Saturday, January 26, in Avignon.
The International Trade Union Confederation has strongly backed the French war in Mali. In its statement, the ICTU sharply condemns a Jan. 15 statement by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in opposition to the war. It accuses the rival union federation of “siding with the terrorists” in Mali. Among the affiliates of the ITUC are many of the world’s leading trade union organizations, including the Canadian Labour Congress and the Quebec union federations FTQ, CSN and CSD.
The World Peace Council issued a statement on Jan. 16 opposed to the war on Mali. The WPC and WFTU were for decades closely allied with the foreign policy of the former Soviet Union.
In Canada, on Wednesday, NDP war critic Jack Harris appeared on a panel on Evan Salomon's 'Power and Politics' program on CBC News Network. He explained that the NDP has been closely consulted by the government and supports the mission without hesitation.
Roger Annis is a social rights and trade union activist in Vancouver, B.C. He can be reached at rogerannis[at]hotmail[dot]com